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Professor J Huw Davies

Professor J Huw Davies

Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions

daviesjh2 @
+44 (0)29 2087 5182
+44 (0)29 2087 4326
2.37B, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
Welsh speaking
Available for postgraduate supervision



I have an interest in understanding global solid Earth processes, especially ones related to the mantle (the region between the crust and the core). I undertake this research through a combination of numerical modelling and data processing, especially by bringing strong observations to bear on numerical models. The models frequently utilise High-Performance Computing. They have included proposing slab break-off, assessing source region of subduction zone magmatism, subduction zone dynamics, mantle seismic structure, mantle heat flux, mantle circulation modelling, models of mantle dynamics underpinning mantle geochemistry and planetary formation and evolution. I also have a strong interest in supporting early career researchers interested in related research.

  • Mantle
  • Geodynamics
  • Geophysics
  • Subduction zone dynamics
  • Numerical modelling


Career overview

  • Professor in Geodynamics - School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Cardiff University (2015 - present)
  • Reader in Earth and Environmental Sciences – School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Cardiff University (2008  - 2015)
  • Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Earth and Environmental Sciencess – School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Cardiff University (2001 - 2008)
  • Lecturer in Geophysics – Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Liverpool (1992-2001)
  • NERC Research Fellow – Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, University of Cambridge (1990-1992)

Education and Qualifications

  • PhD – Seismological Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (1989)
  • MS – Geophysics, California Institute of Technology (1988)
  • BA  Natural Sciences – Physics and Theoretical Physics -  University of Cambridge (1983)

Honours and awards

Honours and Awards (excluding Grants)

  • Executive Editor, for Geodynamics/Geodesy, Solid Earth journal, 2015 - 2019.
  • President, Geodynamics Division, European Geosciences Union, 2009-11, 2011-13
  • Member Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) Peer Review College 2007-2010, 2012-present
  • Member European Research Council Peer Review College
  • Member European Science Foundation Peer Review College
  • Member Editorial Board - Tectonophysics (1998 - present)
  • Member Editorial Board - Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors (1998 - present)
  • NERC Research Fellowship 1990-1992
  • NERC Research Fellowship (renewed) 1992
  • Scholarship, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Tulsa, OK, USA 1984-1989
  • Senior Scholarship for First Class Performance, St. John's College, Cambridge 1982

Professional memberships

  • Fellow - Royal Astronomical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • European Geosciences Union
  • Cymdeithas Wyddonol Caerdydd
  • British Geophysical Association

Academic positions

  • 2001-present: Lecturer / Senior Lecturer / Reader /Professor – Cardiff University
  • 2014 - Visiting Research Fellow, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University
  • 1995 - Visiting Fellow, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University
  • 1992-2001: Theoretical Geophysics Lecturer - University of Liverpool
  • 1990-1992: NERC Research Fellow, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, University of Cambridge
  • 1984-1989: Research Assistant, Seismological Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Speaking engagements

Recent invited conference presentations

  • Invited - Collège de France, Paris, France “Dynamic modelling of subducting slab interaction with transition zone”, 1-2 December 2016
  • CIDER – “Dynamic subduction zone modelling – interaction with viscous lower mantle” July 2016
  • Recent Keynote - Davies, JH, Webb PJ and DR Davies, Tethyan dynamic topography over the past 300Ma, International Geological Congress, Brisbane, 8 August, 2012
  • Recent Invited - Davies JH, Garel F, Goes S, Davies DR, Kramer S, Wilson C; Overriding plate deformation during subduction evolution; American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, 18 December, 2015

Recent invited seminars

  • University of Sydney, Sydney, Nov 2014
  • Australian National University, Nov 2014
  • Macquarie University, Nov 2014
  • University of California, Berkeley, Dec 2014
  • Lille University, June 2015
  • Utrecht University, June 2015
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, July, 2015
  • Yale University, July 2015
  • Princeton University, July 2015
  • Columbia University, July 2015
  • Univ of Liverpool, May 2018

  • Deep Volatiles UK-Sino Meeting, University of Edinburgh, Sept, 2018

Committees and reviewing

External Committees

  • 2013 - present: Member Geophysics Forum (Geological Society of London and Royal Astronomcal Society)

University Committees

  • 2008 - present: Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (ARCCA) – Oversight Committee
  • 2009 - present: Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (ARCCA) - Operational and User Group Committee
  • 2016 - present: University Director of Research Network
  • 2016 - present: Physical Sciences and Engineering College Director of Research Committee

School Committees

  • 2016 - present: School Executive Commitee
  • 2016 - present: Chair School Research Committee
  • 2001 - present: School Exam Boards
  • 2002-2015: Chair School IT Committee
  • pre 2014 - member of School (i) Finance, (ii) Teaching, (iii) Research; Committees

Exernal PhD Vivia Examiner (since 2015)

  • External Examiner Marie Pears, UCL, PhD thesis, January 2015

  • External Examiner Michael Rubey, Sydney Univ, PhD thesis, Nov 2015

  • External Examiner Ka Lok Li, Uppsala University, PhD thesis, 15 September, 2017

  • External Examiner Anne Glerum, Utrecht University, PhD thesis, 1 March, 2019































I will lecture in 2020-21 on

  • Structural Geology and Geophysics (Yr 2)
  • Numerical Methods (Yr 4)

In 2019-20 I lectured/taught/or assessed on the following modules

  • Planet Earth (yr 1),
  • Geophysics (yr 2),
  • Numerical Methods (yr 4).

I also lectured on the modules, Plate Tectonics (yr 2), Dynamic Earth (yr 3) and Geodynamics (yr 4), pre-2020. I also support some fieldtrip, and projects modules; e.g. the 70 credit Year 4 MESci Research Project module. In my first decade or more at Cardiff I lectured on Geographical Information Systems (GIS) (Years 1 to 3).

I am External Examiner for University of Bristol's Geophysics Degree Programmes, from 2018-2023.

I am the School's Director of Research. Before that I led the Centre for Solid Earth and Natural Resources (2015-16), and lead one of its sub-constituent groups, the Mantle Geodynamics Group (MGG) which is part of the Tectonics and Geophysics Research Group.

The Mantle Geodynamic Group tries to understand how the region between the crust and the core, called the mantle, drives Earth dynamics including plate tectonics. We primarily do this using advanced numerical models on high performance computers. We constrain the models using observational data from many disciplines ranging from seismology and geodesy to geochemistry, geology and petrology.

A big new opening for my group will be the "Mantle Circulation Constrained (MC2): A multidisciplinary 4D Earth framework for understanding mantle upwellings" grant recently awarded to myself as lead PI, together with a further 13 co-Investigators across 9 UK Universities (see below on the grant section). This project will support a PDRA who will model the mantle circulation over the past 1 Ga, focussing on the past 300 Ma. This will include models assimilating plate motion histories provided by Prof. Müller's Earthbyte group at the University of Sydney. The final models will assimilate the seismic tomography structures that will be imaged by the MC2 seismologists working with Dr. Ferreira (UCL) and Dr. Koelemeijer (RHUL). The grant will further support 2 PhD students in my group who will consider the implications of the mantle circulations models for seismic discontinuities and noble gases. It will also support an isotope geochemist PDRA at Cardiff supervised by Dr. Morten Andersen. In total the project will employ 10 PDRAs across the UK and a further Researcher Co-Investigator. The goal of the project will be to understand mantle upwelling, including passive upwelling, active upwelling beneath "hot-spots", and the active upwellings that have punctuated geological history with their extinction inducing Large Igneous Provinces (LIPS). This project will start in October 2020, and we will be looking to fill the 4 year PDRA mantle circulation modeller position then, and the 2 mantle geodynamics PhD students to start by 20201.

Recently this has included

  • Global models of water circulation (Price, Davies and Panton, 2019)
  • Assimilation of seismic tomography into mantle dynamic models (Price and Davies, 2018);
  • Maintaining isotopic domains in mantle circualtion models (Barry et al., 2017)
  • Developing a spectral element code for mantle convection (Phillips et al., 2019)
  • Breaking supercontinents (Wolstencroft and Davies, 2017)
  • Module for global modelling of melting and isotope evolution in the mantle (van Heck et al., 2016)

Over the years I have published on

  • Heat Flow (Davies, 2013; Davies and Davies, 2010)
  • Subduction dynamics (Garel et al., 2014; Davies 1999)
  • Subduction zone thermal structure and melting (Davies and Stevenson, 1992; Davies, 1999)
  • Mantle seismic structure (Rhodes and Davies, 2001; Davies et al., 1992)
  • Slab Breakoff (Davies and von Blanckenburg, 1995; von Blanckenburg and Davies, 1995)
  • Mantle convection (Wolstencroft and Davies, 2011; Wolstencroft et al., 2009)
  • Adaptivity in mantle convection (Davies et al., 2008, Davies et al., 2007)
  • Mantle upwellings (Davies, 2005, Davies and Bunge, 2006; Davies and Davies, 2009)
  • Deep lower mantle structure, thermal or compositional (Davies et al., 2012)

Recent Grants

NERC Large Grant - Lead PI - "Mantle Circulation Constrained (MC2): A multidisciplinary 4D Earth framework for understanding mantle upwellings", October 2020- September 2024, ~£3 million. Principal Investigator - Prof. J. Huw Davies (Cardiff Univ.); Co-Investigators - Prof. Elliott, Dr. Myhill, Prof. Wookey (Univ. of Bristol), Dr. Andersen (Cardiff Univ.), Dr. Shorttle (Univ. of Cambridge), Dr. Roberts (Imperial College London), Dr. Davies, Dr. Nowacki, Dr. Walker (Univ. of Leeds), Prof. Biggin (Univ of Liverpool), Dr. Porcelli (Univ. of Oxford), Dr. Koelemeijer (Royal Holloway, Univ. of London), Dr. Ferreira (Univ. College London). Project Partners - Dr. Bower (Univ. of Bern), Prof. Cordier (Univ. de Lille), Dr. Davies (ANU), Dr. Ghiorso (ENKI), Prof. Müller (EarthByte, Univ. of Sydney), Dr. Zaroli (Univ. de Strasbourg).

Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship, The Evolution of Terrestrial Planets: Insights from Models of Planetary Evolution with Coupled Internal, Atmospheric/Surface Development, Dr. Matt Weller, 2019-2021, €212933.76

NERC Grant – NE/M000400/1 - Lead PI of Cardiff element – “Volatile legacy of the Early Earth”, £124k (FEC) – September 2014-September 2020. This Consortium is led by Prof. Walter (Univ. Bristol) (Part of NERC Programme - Volatiles, geodynamics and solid earth controls on the habitable planet).

NERC Grant – NE/M000397/1   Lead PI of Cardiff element – “Mantle volatiles : processes, reservoirs and fluxes”, £221k  (FEC) - Sept 2014 – Oct 2020. This Consortium is led by Prof. Ballentine (Univ. Oxford) (Part of NERC Programme - Volatiles, geodynamics and solid earth controls on the habitable planet).

NERC Standard Grant – NE/K004824/1  -£428,490  (£240,763 Cardiff element; £192,610 awarded) – Lead PI, co-I James Wookey (Univ. of Bristol) – Project Partners – Rhodri Davies (Australian National University), Christine Thomas (Univ Muenster),  Lars Stixrude and Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni (UCL) - Superplumes, superpiles or superpuddings? Understanding the thermochemical dynamics of the mantle with waveform seismology – September 30 2013 - September 2017.

NERC Standard Grant – NE/I024429/1 - £428,490 (£204,669 from NERC to CU) –Lead PI -Understanding how the mantle transition-zone 'valve' controls slab fate – June 1, 2012 - 2016


I am interested in lead supervising projects related to

  • mantle dynamics
  • geodynamics
  • subduction
  • plumes and mantle upwellings

and co-supervising a broader range of projects where there is

  • Geophysics
  • Numerical components

I currently lead supervise

  • Zhibin Lei - Tectonic evolution of North China Craton
  • James Panton - Mantle volatile cycle, including Pb-Pb pseudo-isochron
  • Duo Zhang - Formation of Back Arc Basins

I co-supervise, Jennifer Ellis (Faulting in a mineralised intrusion), Eveanjelene Snee (Volcanic Eruptions) and Joel Rodney (Univ. Bristol, Mantle isotopes).

Current supervision

Duo Zhang

Research student

Past projects

  • Jennifer Ellis - co-Supervisor - Faulting in a mineralised intrusion - 2020
  • Matthew Price - lead-Supervisor -
  • Rebecca Lawton - lead-Supervisor -
  • Peter Webb - lead-Supervisor -
  • Martin Wolstencroft - lead-Supervisor -
  • Rhodri Davies - lead-Supervisor -
  • David Oldham - lead-Supervisor -
  • Carlos Izarra - co-Supervisor -
  • Mark Rhodes - lead-Supervisor -
  • Andrea Rowland - lead-Supervisor -



Open University Severnside Branch - Presentation on "Mantle Engine", Saturday December 7th 2019, at Christmas meeting.

I have presented to many School Groups who visit the 3D Visualisation Suite in the School. This will be on topics related to mantle convection, including in Welsh.


I have undertaken research with a range of geoscience companies.

Media (2020 onwards)

MC2 project was covered on BBC News website at May 2020

Talk Radio - June 2020

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire - June 2020

BBC Radio 5 Live - June 2020

Radio National, ABC Australia - June 2020

Naked Scientists podcast - June 2020